not expected that within an hour of my arrival the
press would make of the Barbie case something that La Paz seldom sees: a
national issue that put the government up against a wall. |
morning I went to the French Embassy, where one of the staff whom I asked for
the ambassador told me he ha just come in. Indeed, I had just seen two
middle-aged men go by: I waited. Then the consul, whose name was Colombani,
came out and said: "The ambassador is not in."
"Do you mean he is not
in, or that he does not wish to be in?"
"Take it as you like," he said.
"Has the request for extradition arrived?"
"You'll have to ask
the French government Press Division."
I did not press the matter, but
went to the Ministry of the Interior, which was next to the French Embassy. A
soldier on guard detained me at the entrance and kept saying over and over:
At the hotel the reporters arranged an appointment
with the Immigration Minister, Rudolfo Greminger, and tried to get me one with
the President, Colonel Banzer. I met Greminger that afternoon, and found him to
be about thirty years old, with European charm. His welcome was a little cool,
however, so I just: left him my data so that he could have it photocopied.
Ladislas de Hoyos, from the ORT second network, and his crew had set up
their television equipment at the Hotel Sucre. At least one organ of the press
had sent a reporter to the place where Barbie, who had made so much ink flow in
France, was. It seemed strange to me that newspapers can send reporters to Hong
Kong or Australia to cover the drug traffic or a football match, but are quit
content to handle something like the Barbie case from Paris or Lyon without
letting the French know the real situation in Bolivia.
I still had a
headache, and practically no appetite. The hotel food did not help. I made do
with an avocado salad and stewed fruit.
Then I went back to work with
the reporters, who never stopped telephoning and showing up at my room until
late that night, for they wanted to hear everything about my progress during
the day. We had long interviews, and I told them all about the Gestapo, Nazism,
the Resistance, and the death camps. They were far removed from all those
facts. How could we expect to obtain Altmann's extradiction if the Bolivians
were not completely convinced that he was Barbie and had been a real criminal